Local families share their holiday traditions

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The holidays are a time for getting together with loved ones, reflecting on happy memories and practicing family traditions.

Some families bake Christmas cookies together or spin dreidels. Some drive around town looking at the festive decorations, or attend church or synagogue together.

Bluffton mom Blair Roscoe's favorite Christmas tradition is an idea she stole from her aunt. On Christmas Eve, the children each get to open one gift from their parents. The gifts are always a pair of pajamas, a snack and a Christmas book. That night, the children put on their new matching pajamas and enjoy a little snack while their parents read them their new books.

This year, Roscoe and her husband, Phil, are hoping to start a new tradition with their 4-year-old and 23-month-old daughters. Since their home is already filled to the brim with toys, the Roscoes are planning to give their daughters a vacation and just a few toys from Santa.

"Because really, who wants more toys around?" Blair said. "We will see how it goes."

Wendy Santiago's favorite Christmas tradition is spending time with her sister and their two families. Everyone sleeps over at Santiago's house on Christmas Eve so the children can wake up with their cousins on Christmas morning.

"The fact that we are able to live so close and be together is very special," the Bluffton mother of two said. "Having the kids together during Christmas makes it even better."

Santiago also likes to incorporate some of her Puerto Rican family heritage into their Christmas celebrations. The family eats traditional Puerto Rican dishes, such as arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas) and pernil (slow-roasted, marinated pork leg or shoulder.)

Food is a big part of the holidays for many. Pennie Meiselman and her family enjoy brisket, latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (deep-fried jelly doughnuts) when they gather during Hanukkah.

"Food is always the main part of Jewish holidays," the Hilton Head Island mother and grandmother said. "Then, of course, you play games with a dreidel, and the winners get Hanukkah gelt [chocolate coins.]"

Former University of South Carolina Beaufort Chancellor and longtime Bluffton resident Dr. Jane Upshaw's favorite holiday tradition revolves around family and faith.

She and her family attend the children's service at church then have dinner together. She and her husband, Tom, watch their grandson open one gift, then the couple heads back to church for the late service.

"The music and the message are inspirational and exhilarating as we remember, again, the love of God as personified in Christ coming to live as a man fully human and fully divine," Upshaw said.

Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.

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